Irma Thomas; James Hunter

This terrific double bill pairs Crescent City icon Irma Thomas, the renowned Soul Queen of New Orleans, with British neo-soul man James Hunter. Much beloved in her hometown for her intimate relationship with her audience, Thomas landed a long-overdue Grammy for her post-Katrina album After the Rain. Through a 50-year career, she's been responsible for a slew of New Orleans touchstones, such as "It's Raining," "Wish Someone Would Care," and "Time Is on My Side." Her sensational pipes haven't lost an ounce of expression or firepower over the decades, and are pure sterling on her forthcoming Simply Grand (Rounder). Due out in August, it's Irma showing off her grand versatility as she's matched with 12 top-notch pianists, ranging from New Orleans's Dr. John, Henry Butler, and Ellis Marsalis, to the likes of Norah Jones, John Medeski, and Randy Newman. Another New Orleans icon, Allen Toussaint, tickles the ivories on three tracks on Hunter's sparkling new The Hard Way (Hear/Go), a cool collection of original nuggets sung with classic soul gusto strongly reminiscent of Sam Cooke, Smokey Robinson, and Jackie Wilson. Plus, Hunter's a fine R&B guitarist whose scrambling, ringing style merges nicely with his honking horn section, which definitely will be along on tour.
Thu., June 26, 7:30 p.m., 2008

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